Before I begin, I want to let everyone know that I think police bashing is bad. There are going to be in every profession people who exercise poor judgment, have poor character or are just plain evil in their use of their abilities and authority. The institution is not faulty as an idea in having a group of people dedicated to serving and protecting the People. The problem is there are always going to be bad apples and this is the problem with most things not just the police. Unfortunately, when someone does misuse their authority or ability that has great power, the results are almost always catastrophic. The issue for me is always to assess each situation fairly and provide even-handed justice.
Christians in law enforcement often quote Romans 13:4 but I wonder if they realize sometimes that applies to them as well. There are laws over them and that means there is someone with a sword above them that they should fear as well. In our case, the Second Amendment gives the people the power. It is strongly argued and I believe correctly that the second amendment gives a large sword to the people to protect from just such an abuse of power. I have had friends tell me to not resist officers of the law. Practically, I understand their reasoning provided I do not feel my life is in jeopardy. Otherwise I agree, because if I am falsely arrested by officers because they are either incompetent or being abusive then that is a multi-million dollar mistake on their part. Especially for someone like me whose reputation is a big part of what my occupation is. Civil court here I come and my reputation is going to be very expensive for you to take from me wrongly.
That said, there are some problems with just taking it from the police given the rationale behind the second amendment. The question then arises: At what point do The People who are the highest authority pick up those arms to fight an oppressive government that uses law enforcement as pawns of violating people constitutional rights? It is a question that bothers me from time to time.
I admit the police are in a an awkward position here. They derive their power from the people but their job is to protect the people by rooting out and removing people who do not respect the law established by the people. They only really have authority over law breakers not law-abiding citizens and they have to be constantly asking when someone crosses that line from one to another.
I also have to concede that part of the problem is that The People have given law enforcers too much to be responsible for. In other words they have created far to many laws and this has required an overburdened force of officers even more challenges and to be honest that is a big reason why so many mistakes are made. I know of no lawyer that knows all the law so I would suspect the police officer is in the same boat. That problem is caused by a People who want to make a rule for everything instead of siding with freedom and letting people be as they wish as long as they do not violate the rights of others. If officers simply had to concern themselves with basic protection of the rights of citizens, then there would be a lot less foul ups.
I will say I still have some problems with the police at times. Not necessarily as a whole but certain attitudes many of them display.
1. “I was just following orders”. Mindless obedience to authority is the kind of thing the Gestapo did. I expect officers to not mindlessly obey their superiors but to be thinking bearers of the sword. They should be more conscious of upholding the rights of citizens because they do ‘bear the sword’. An immoral and unconstitutional order should never be followed. I applauded the sheriffs that refused to carry out certain orders of the federal or state government because they considered them unconstitutional. That is what they should do because ultimately the serve the people not the government.
2. “There are only two types of people – police and everyone else.” Sorry to be the bear of bad news, this not true. There are two types of people, those that break the law and those who respect and fear it. Those people can be police or just normal citizens. This attitude is usually followed by all sorts of justification of bad behavior by police for ‘the greater good.” Sorry, I guess for me the ends justify the means never works when someone’s rights are violated.
3. “The police are always right.” – No, that’s not true. The main problem as to why police these days are having a public relations problem, is their lack of transparency. Officers are often disciplined and the public never knows which then creates the notion that police never face consequences for bad actions. This is why people distrust the police as much as their own attitude sometimes that they think the police are out to get them. The thing is that Romans 13 the applies to the officers – “If you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear”. The sword in the citizens hands will not fall on you if you are not doing wrong as an officer and can demonstrate the same. If your afraid of internal affairs, then there is something you’re doing wrong. If these sound similar to what you tell people about their attitude towards you, then understand it cuts right back at you as well. The sword you wield has two edges. The standard you judge will be measured back to you.
Now all these problems aside, I don’t think the problem really lies with the ones who bear the sword. It is the one who gives them their marching orders and not necessarily because they give to many. There is a much deeper problem than that. That however is the subject of next week’s post.